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Greek striker Gekas revives his career at improving Frankfurt

Theofanis Gekas is anything but a complete player, but he knows how to do a striker's main job - score goals. And this year the crafty Greek is reminding opponents just how uncannily efficient he can be.

Gekas shooting

Gekas made the difference against Wolfsburg

After eleven rounds of play, no one had more goals - 11 in total - than a 30-year-old many Bundesliga fans would probably classify as a journeyman.

But ask the man himself and he'll tell you that goal-getting is an innate ability that's anything but the norm.

"I started playing football really young, and I was always a striker," Gekas said in interview with the German Football League. "I was born with my scoring ability. It seems like a gift from God."

His teammates had another potentially supernatural explanation after Gekas scored a brace on Saturday.

“We asked ourselves in the dressing room if he's sold his soul,” defender Marco Russ told the Bild newspaper. “Even his badly taken penalty went in.”

Gekas came to the Bundesliga in 2005 on a one-year loan from Panathinaikos Athens to Bochum and promptly won the league scoring title. His then coach described him as "our life-insurance policy."

But Bochum decided they could not afford the premiums and failed to exercise their right to purchase the Greek goal-getter. It was a bad decision. Bochum became a perennial relegation candidate and now play in the second division.

For his part, Gekas moved on to Leverkusen, where he never established himself. Although he scored a respectable 11 goals in his first season with his new club, he was often criticized as lacking in work ethic and was loaned out to Hertha Berlin at the beginning of 2010.

With Hertha also getting relegated, Gekas formally returned to Leverkusen, before promptly moving on to Frankfurt. His was hardly one of the high-profile signings of the off-season, but now he's getting a chance to prove that his detractors, if not completely wrong, missed the point.

Ice-cold killer

Frankfurt's Theofanis Gekas celebrates

In addition to his 11 league goals, Gekas has scored 2 in the German Cup

Gekas is neither a particularly great dribbler or passer, and he's never been known to track back and help out on defense. But he is one of the most prolific poachers the league has seen in recent years.

That's just the way he described the role of a striker in a recent interview.

"The most important thing is that [a striker] has good teammates who are always looking to get him the ball," Gekas told the online portal of the Eurosport television network. "In addition, he needs the talent to get himself in the right position to score goals."

On teams that fail to utilize his nose for goal, Gekas is most conspicuous for the amount of times he's caught offside. But on teams that figure out how to employ his particular talent, he can be lethal.

Indeed, a Tarantino-esque tattoo on Gekas' arm reads "Eiskalter Vollstrecker," (ice-cold killer ) - the nickname he earned at Bochum.

Understatement, as you've probably guessed by now, isn't Gekas' strong suit.

"The fact that I didn't score [for Leverkusen and Hertha] was because the people in positions of responsibility didn't trust me," Gekas told the Bundesliga. "But Frankfurt coach Michael Skibbe, whom I know from my time in Leverkusen, does have that trust. That has a direct effect on my game and the number of goals I score."

Instinct and vision

Gekas scoring a goal

Gekas has been doing all his talking on pitch this season

Seen negatively, Gekas is one-dimensional. Seen positively, he does exactly what he's supposed to do, hang around in dangerous positions and convert chances as they materialize.

Wolfsburg were given a display of the latter qualities, as their trip to Frankfurt on Saturday ended in a 3-1 defeat. The hosts' first goal in that match was archetypal Gekas. The Greek striker lurked on the edge of the penalty area, and when a low pass came his way, he took it directly and curled it into the bottom left-hand corner.

The goal was only possible because Gekas didn't hesitate or try to control the ball, but rather reacted on instinct. That's a quality his coach appreciates.

"There aren't many strikers who can see a situation in advance as well as Gekas," Michael Skibbe told the Bild newspaper earlier this season. "In the build-up, he follows pass combinations very intensely and then instinctively runs where he expects the ball to be."

Gekas goals may often appear to be lucky, but the numbers argue for his basic quality. In addition to his achievements in the Bundesliga, the striker has scored 20 goals in 51 matches for the Greek national team.

Gekas officially retired from the Greece squad in September, citing "special circumstances."

Few people, if indeed anyone other than the striker himself, knew what he was referring to. That's not uncommon with Gekas, who, despite playing for years in the Bundesliga, says he sees no need to learn German.

And this season, he's drastically scaled back the number of interviews he's prepared to give.

But if Gekas can keep up anything near his early pace of a goal per game, no one is likely to care about his disinterest in communication. As he himself might say, a striker's job is not to make himself understood. Putting the ball in the net speaks louder than words.

Author: Jefferson Chase
Editor: Rob Turner

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